Native Culture Branches Out

By Jalene Kanani
Founder of jaleneKANANI

Sharing the aloha spirit and Hawaiian culture has always been second nature to me.

When I was 5, I started dancing hula professionally in the Don Ho show, the first of many engagements that would take me through the Islands, across the U.S. and overseas to share my history and culture.

It was through these unique travel opportunities that I immersed myself in other host cultures and developed an appreciation for connecting people, place and space.


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Jalene Kanani (left), with Sienna Hitzeman (daughter) and Wailana Bell (mother). Photos courtesy of Jalene Kanani.

Hawaii is a place of unmatched beauty, culture and spirit. People from all over the world seek inspiration for art, design, products and services here in our Islands.

What they love about the Islands and their experiences here they take back and recreate. JaleneKANANI, an emerging commercial designer brand, was born out of a desire to carry our native culture throughout the globe. JaleneKANANI Inc. is a women-owned, Native Hawaiian corporation established in 2009.

In collaboration with top commercial interior design and architecture firms, we create custom carpets, wall coverings, art, fabrics and glass.

We have been fortunate to do work for international hospitality brands such as Starwood, Hilton, Fairmont and Wyndham. Recently, through an exclusive international licensing agreement with Duralee Contract, JaleneKANANI’s designs are now available in commercial-quality fabrics to hospitality and commercial clients worldwide. Last month we signed another licensing agreement with Artaic ensuring JaleneKANANI will be offered internationally in beautiful glass mosaics.

Through ProSpec Contract, a local flooring distributor, as well as top international manufacturers, we make custom-designed carpets and area rugs for hotel projects worldwide. I love working with architects and interior designers to develop spaces that reflect our history and culture.

The local A&D community is very sophisticated.

What they design speaks to our island culture and yet can transcend its design to spaces and cultures all over the world. I help them with a very small part of their overall design concept, but it can be very impactful, and niche opportunities are how many small businesses begin and grow.

Recently we were fortunate to participate on a team assembled by Honolulu architecture firm InForm Design that redesigned the Wyndham Vacations Resorts Royal Garden at Waikiki, which won a top national award in the category “Refurbishment Interior Design or Architecture” from the American Resort Development Association at its 2012 National Convention.

If I provide good design, my clients look good. If my clients look good, they will come back and spread the word. These are the basic building blocks for any small business.

For an introduction to JaleneKANANI’s designs, visit jalenekanani.net.